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My criteria when picking somewhere new usually comes in the form of a thumbs up from Giles Coren and there’s no shame in admitting so. His Saturday review this is where I get all my new leads restaurant wise- there and Grace and Flavour although the two frequently overlap. I know chancing on a hidden gem is a bit cooler and happens every now and then in say Brixton Market but it’s rare so why not go where the experts go and enjoy some wit and cynicism whilst you’re at it? Not you AA Gill.

Situated in Hackney, Lardo is just up the road so pitched the idea to some friends and we went last night. A large room with exposed brick walls and a typically on trend working warehouse feel greats us with a huge pizza oven designed like a huge, shimmering disco ball glowing in the corner the focal point. I will note that the table is booked for seven o’clock and we didn’t all arrive until after half passed. The only person getting stressed about this was me, our waitresses are calm, friendly and very welcoming. Their happy to let us have a couple of beers and order some wine whilst we wait.

All seated, we opt to share two plates of fennel pollen salame, lardy loin and chilli coppa with olives and a cakey, slightly staler than focaccia bread. Lardo make their own charcuterie and for this reason was slightly alarmed at why they charge so much for it- £4.50 for 25g! I was led to believe that the reason you can eat 1lb of prosciutto (in one sitting) for under five euros in Italy was down to not having to pay hefty export charges? Could be wrong or maybe they can only make small quantities and it’s labour intensive or maybe they just know idiots like me will pay regardless? What you do get though is divine.

Charcuterie is something I dream about but divine might be a bit OTT but it is exceptional, melt in your mouth and moreish. Perhaps the 25g portion is just the industry norm and not designed for a greedy-guts like me, the price reflecting Hackney’s gentrification and likely knock on rental increase and not stingy after all *

Roast quail with strawberry grapes, aubergine with mint and ricotta and big fat burrata come next. I’m not keen on ricotta but the smokiness of the aubergine and fresh hit of the mint make it a very memorable dip. A slightly chunkier baba ghanoushalmost.

The biggest laugh of the evening comes when my friend describes the quail as a turkey for midgets and I jokingly try and carve it.. shouldn’t play with your food though should you? It’s juicy, rich and the zest of the strawberry grapes counter perfectly. The burrata is fine but I need to be eating something far more flavoursome to be taking on that amount of saturated fat guilt free! Another plate of charcuterie perhaps?

Pizza’s arrive and do not disappoint either, I opt for the black anise pepperoni option. With wood fired ovens in abundance and even in UK gardens these days, there’s not too much tweaking you can do to make a base stand out but these are beautifully made. Crisp, brittle crusts and fresh, doughy bases. The real star here though is the anise (no pun intended) salme which is aniseedy and perfect with the peppery rocket and exceptional tomato base. To do it justice I don’t mind pinching a line from Giles here ‘’probably the best single object for sale in Europe under a tenner.” I also try a slice of the lardo, rocket and marjoram. Again delicious but I’ve made the right choice with mine.

Weapons grade double espresso’s to finish ensure we don’t fall asleep at the table, thoroughly stuffed and pretty boozy. An all-round excellent evening, great service and one I have already recommended to friends. I will return. Soon.

£50 per head with service.

 *I email my review over to Lardo who come back this this interesting explanation on the salami:

 ‘Unfortunately we do make these in small batches from pigs that have a better life than most of us, which are then combined with the likes of fennel pollen which has been hand harvested by a lovely man called Francesco who charges more than the street price of Heroin for a gram of the delightful stuff. We would love to charge less for it, but unfortunately it tastes this good for a reason’

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